George thought Jim was tense as he sat there on the porch with him, like he had something serious on his mind.
‘You okay?’ asked George.
‘Yea, fine.’ Jim put his cup down on the saucer with a clatter. Then he stood up. ‘Look, amuse yourself for a while; I’ve got something I need to do.’ He skipped down the steps and headed towards the farm buildings. George sighed deeply and poured himself another cup of tea.
Hiuhu was in the stable yard. He had a horse out and was grooming it.
‘Hiuhu, I want to speak to you,’ said Jim, walking up to him.
‘What is it?’
‘It’s Kafil, he blackmailed me earlier about the hangings. That doesn’t just involve me, you know.’
‘What did he say?’ asked Hiuhu. He stopped the grooming and looked at Jim seriously.
‘Because he had a job he didn’t like, he threatened to run to the police if I didn’t take him off it,’ said Jim, exaggerating.
‘Where is he now?’
‘In the dorm. We’ve got to do something about him. Where’s Jomo?’
‘He’s servicing the pickup,’ said Hiuhu.
Jim reached out and stroked the horse’s nose. It felt like soft warm velvet to his fingers. ‘So, what do you think?’
‘See what Jomo says. He’s closer to Kafil than us,’ said Hiuhu.
‘Come with me, we’ll go and see him now.’
They left the horse tied to an iron ring in the stable wall and went in search of Jomo. He was under the engine of the pickup.
‘Jomo, we’ve got something important to talk to you about,’ said Jim.
Jomo kicked himself out from under the pickup. His hands were black with grease and oil. ‘What is it?’
‘If the police ever find out about the hangings, you could hang, d’you know that?’ said Jim.
‘Of course. Why mention it?’
Hiuhu spoke up, ‘Kafil’s been threatening to tell the police.’
‘Why would he?’ said Jomo.
‘He’s blackmailing me for silly reasons,’ said Jim.
Jomo got to his feet and scratched his protruding stomach. ‘I don’t believe it.’
‘Believe it. We need to do something about it,’ said Jim.
‘What d’you mean?’ asked Jomo, looking at Jim suspiciously.
‘I mean we should silence him,’ said Jim.
Jomo shook his head slowly. He definitely wasn’t in agreement with Jim. ‘What do you think?’ he asked Hiuhu.
‘We can’t risk him going to the police.’
Jim nodded in agreement.
‘What do you plan to do?’ asked Jomo.
‘Something must happen to him,’ said Jim.
Jomo closed his eyes for a few seconds. ‘You two do what you must, but I won’t have anything to do with it.’ He slowly sunk down to the ground and got under the pickup again, implying the conversation had ended. Jim and Hiuhu walked back to the house. George was still sat on the porch. Before they were in earshot of George, Jim told Hiuhu to go back to work and not to worry - he was going to think hard about it and come up with a solution soon.
‘Trouble at mill?’ said George, when he saw Jim’s grim face.
‘Oh, nothing. Just farm problems,’ said Jim. He sat at the table with George and poured himself a cup of tea. While sipping at the warm tea he looked across at the dormitory building and exercised his mind for the best solution. The more he thought about it the more he realised that the only answer was murder. His thoughts came to rest on a vision of the box of rat poison in the kitchen.
‘I’m just going to do something.’ He got up and went into the house. In the kitchen he took down one of the large mugs and filled it with hot water from the urn. He put a generous helping of coffee powder into it and some milk and sugar. Then he got the box of rat poison. He took a big table spoonful of the white powder and stirred it into the mug of coffee. Then he carried it outside.
‘Where’re you going with that?’ asked George, as Jim descended the porch steps carrying the mug and being careful not to spill any.
‘Kafil deserves a mug of coffee.’
Kafil was lying on his bed, but he wasn’t asleep. Jim entered and walked towards him.
‘I’ve brought you a mug of coffee.’
Feeling hot and thirsty, Kafil took it gratefully.
‘I’ve been thinking, I’ll be more careful about which job I give you in the future,’ said Jim, standing at the foot of his bed.
As Jim walked out he heard Kafil slurp at the coffee.
The next morning everybody was up for work except Kafil. Jim went to the dorm to see what was wrong with him. He lay in bed and complained of diarrhoea and sickness and a feeling of bloating. He was also vomiting a little blood.
‘You’ve probably caught a bug,’ said Jim, ‘plenty of nutritious food and hot coffee will take care of it. I’ll look after you personally.’
As Jim stood in the kitchen preparing a meat stew for Kafil, Hiuhu walked in.
‘What’s wrong with Kafil...it’s you, isn’t it?’ said Hiuhu.
Jim took a spoonful of the stew and tasted it. Then he took down from the top shelf the box of rat poison. He put three table spoonfuls of the white powder into the stew and stirred it in.
Hiuhu whistled in admiration. ‘It doesn’t take you long to get to work.’
‘Our little friend won’t be with us much longer,’ said Jim. He made Kafil a mug of coffee and laced that with the white powder. Then putting it all onto a tray he turned to Hiuhu. ‘You take it to him. The more he trusts us the better.’
‘You know, we had to lie awake last night listening to his moaning, you didn’t,’ said Hiuhu, picking up the tray.
‘It won’t be for much longer.’
That night as Hiuhu, Chege and Jomo lay in their beds, they heard Kafil moaning. Around one o’clock in the morning he tried to stand but collapsed. His stomach was enlarged and he felt very weak and short of breath. He complained of bleeding from his nose and anus. He wanted a doctor and Jomo was about to go to the farmhouse to use the phone when Hiuhu told him about the rat poison. Jomo was angry that he hadn’t been told earlier. But he soon calmed down and accepted it. Kafil died before dawn. Under Jim’s instructions, they dug a grave and buried him before George got up that morning. Chege, who helped with the burial, was concerned that they might not be doing the right thing.
‘Shouldn’t we report his death to the authorities?’ Chege asked Hiuhu.
‘Jim said he’s going into town this afternoon and will report it then.’
When Chege was digging the grave he noticed some recently dug areas nearby. He hadn’t said anything at the time, but now he asked Hiuhu.
‘We had to bury some dead animals, that’s all,’ explained Hiuhu.
Chege accepted Hiuhu’s explanation, but had a doubt in his mind that the recently dug graves didn’t contain animals; they were too narrow and looked like human graves, though he might be wrong.
Having finished the manure shifting job days before, Chege was now painting one of the buildings with creosote. It was a lonely and dangerous job, as nobody was there to secure the bottom of the ladder. There he was, anything up to twenty feet up, holding a can of creosote in one hand and a brush in the other, and all this in the baking sunshine. Before finishing for the day, he had made up his mind that he was going to investigate those graves in the early hours of the morning.
Early that evening, when Hiuhu and Jomo were out of sight, Chege slipped into bed with his clothes still on. He waited until 2.00 a.m. when Hiuhu and Jomo were asleep, and then got out of bed and taking a torch, he left the dormitory. Taking a spade from the tool shed he went to the graves. He began to dig up the first one he came to. It was hard work as the earth had been patted and trampled down, but after thirty minutes his spade hit an object. It was soft and after a little investigating he realised it was part of an arm. He brushed and scooped the earth away until he came to a face. He picked up the torch and shone it at the face. It wasn’t Kafil and it wasn’t anyone he recognized. The corpse’s eyes were wide open and looked odd as bits of earth stuck to his eyeballs. When you’re alive the eyes are always so clean and shinny. It seemed sacrilege that now earth was impacted in the eyes. The mouth was open and bare white teeth seemed to hold some earth in a snarl.
‘What are you doing?’ said Jim from out of the darkness.
‘Jim!’ said Chege in shock.
‘I ask again, what are you doing?’
‘Hiuhu said that there are animals buried here, I didn’t believe him, so I thought I’d take a look for myself,’ said Chege.
‘Haven’t you got any dignity? These are graves of farm hands that have died over the years. Shovel that earth back in and get to bed,’ said Jim, like he was telling-off a young child.
Chege shovelled the earth back into the grave and left the grisly area, glad to be back in the comfort of the dormitory. Without waking Hiuhu or Jomo, he got undressed and got into bed.
The next morning Chege was awoken by the shaking of his foot as he lay in his bed. It was Hiuhu. Chege knew that he would only get three hours sleep as he went to bed at 4.00 a.m. He knew that they all got up at seven and that Jomo was probably now in the house getting the breakfast ready to bring it over to the dorm. As he sat on his bed putting his socks on, he looked down the dormitory and at the small dinning room where they had their meals. Hiuhu was laying the table. Chege thought about what had happened hours earlier with Jim at the graves site. Hiuhu had told him that only animals were buried there. Didn’t he know about the body that he had dug up? Jim had said that the bodies of farmhands who had died over the years were buried there. The body he had uncovered last night was fresh and not years old. He was going to wait until breakfast before asking them some important questions.
When Chege was dressed he went and joined Hiuhu sat at the table. Just seconds after Chege had sat down, Jomo came in holding the large tray. He put the tray of food on the table and promptly gave Chege and Hiuhu a plate each of five pancakes piled on top of one another with maple syrup poured over them. When the three of them were sat eating, Chege began.
‘Hiuhu, is it just animals that are buried around the back? You know, where we buried Kafil.’
Hiuhu nearly choked on his food as he gave a worried look at Jomo. ‘Chege, this is not the time or place for such a question,’ he said.
Jomo stopped eating and looked at Hiuhu. He brushed away with a hand some matted hair that had fallen across his face. ‘What does this mean?’ Jomo asked Hiuhu.
‘It means nothing. I told Chege that there are some dead animals buried where we buried Kafil,’ said Hiuhu.
‘But I know for sure that there is at least one more dead human buried there with Kafil,’ said Chege.
Jomo, clearly upset, banged his fork down hard on his plate, got up and walked out of the dormitory.
‘What are you saying?’ asked Hiuhu.
‘I’m saying that you either don’t know that there is another body buried there or you are lying?’
‘You should mind your own business, it is healthier that way,’ said Hiuhu.
‘I went digging there in the early hours, that’s how I know. Jim saw me.’
‘I’m not lying. I didn’t know.’ Hiuhu had lied and looked at Chege, hoping he would believe him.
‘Well, who was that man I uncovered? I hadn’t seen him before,’ said Chege.
Hiuhu thought quickly. “Wait a minute, I think Jim said that he had found one body out on the land, probably killed by lions. There’s a Masia village not far away. He couldn’t just leave it there for lions or scavengers, so he brought it back and buried it.’
Though suspicious, Chege found it plausible and said no more on the matter. ‘Where d’you want me to work today?’
‘There’s some fences need repairing out on the land. I’ll take you there in the pickup and collect you at the end of the day. I’ll leave a rifle with you; you need to be safe from predators. When you’re finished here, go and wait in the pickup, here’s the keys.’ Hiuhu searched his jacket pockets and brought out a key ring with two keys on it. He gave the keys to Chege.
Then Hiuhu went and saw Jim. ‘Why didn’t you tell me you found him digging up the graves last night?’ asked a worried Hiuhu.
They were in the kitchen at the back of the house. Jim stood at the sink and looked through the window at the building and the graves that lay beside it. He could see the disturbed earth. ‘Give me time, it only happened a few hours ago,’ said Jim.
‘He saw a body?’
‘Yes,’ answered Jim.
‘He wanted to know what it was doing there. He knew it wasn’t Kafil. I told him that you’d found a half eaten man out in the bush and buried him here, okay?’
‘Right. Thanks for telling me,’ said Jim. ‘If he doesn’t believe us then we might have to kill him.’